Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Clay: 10

Yannis Ritsos

Physical encounter
down deep
on mute stones
in secret water
where they tangle
the eels
and reproduce.

Athens—January 17, 1978

from Clay (1980) [Collected Poems: IDelta ---pg 84-85]


Drew said...

I love Ritsos's short poems. Do you have a sense of his reasons for the changed format? Also, is the original Greek in free verse or rhyme?

Scott King said...

I love them too. Though sometimes, the smaller they are, the harder they can be to translate, the mis-steps are magnified.

The book-length sequences of small poems began, I believe, with Paper Poems in the early 1970s, but the tiny poems appear much earlier in collections like Notes on the Margins of Time and Exile's Journals in the 1940s. So these later sequences are more a refinement than a change, remembering that Ritsos's masterpieces are the long poems, poems like The Monstrous Masterpiece, The Victory Odes and Graganda, to name only a few of the fifty or so that remain to be translated. Ritsos rarely used rhyme; his very first books included verse and he has a book of nursery-rhyme-like poems, but that's about it.